USC allows students without a flu vaccine to access campus to not ‘block anyone’

Despite a Nov. 1 deadline, it’s unlikely that flu shot non-compliance will affect campus access immediately.

Students without flu vaccines will be able to access campus after the Nov. 1 deadline, according to an interview with USC’s chief health officer Dr. Sarah Van Orman on Monday.

USC Student Health had a Nov. 1 deadline to prevent a rise in flu cases Van Orman expects to see in December. As of now, even if Trojan Check marks the flu vaccination requirement as “not compliant”, the wellness check can still be completed and a campus day pass will be issued.

“Our goal is to get everybody vaccinated, not to block anyone from coming to campus,” Van Orman said. “So there’s no Trojan Check restriction right now. That doesn’t mean you’re not late, and that doesn’t mean you don’t need to get your flu shot. And it doesn’t mean there won’t be a Trojan Check.”

The university will likely enforce the flu vaccine mandate in early December.

All USC students taking in-person classes or living in university-owned housing were required to get a flu vaccine by Nov. 1. The university is requiring students to get vaccinated against the flu for the second year in a row. The announcement came on Sept. 28, giving students a month to schedule an appointment before the deadline.

As of today, 55% of students and 70% of faculty had been vaccinated, Van Orman said. The low vaccination rate for students is partially why USC is not enforcing the deadline yet. According to the CDC, an estimated 5-20% of the population can get the flu each year. This translates to half a million to 2 million cases every flu season in Los Angeles County.

According to Van Orman, students who did not receive a flu vaccination can expect to receive a message from USC Student Health letting them know they are not compliant.

Van Orman also said that the vaccination rate is likely higher than it seems, and that many vaccinated students simply haven’t uploaded their records. One of her main concerns surrounding this year’s flu season is that it could be difficult for students to distinguish between flu symptoms and COVID symptoms.

The flu vaccine takes about two weeks to be effective, Van Orman said.

“You really want to get your flu vaccine before flu viruses start circulating and you have time to build that immunity,” Van Orman said. “The last thing you want to do is to get the flu in December and be sick for finals week. So this is your window to get your flu shot. So that’s why I’m telling people to not delay. Go ahead and get it now.”

Some students who hadn’t received their flu shots yet expected their Trojan Checks to deactivate on Nov. 1, leading to confusion and last-minute scrambling for appointments. But so far, students haven’t had any trouble getting on campus without flu vaccinations.

Freshman Vvinit Paryani, who has received the flu vaccine, said that he doesn’t know of anyone whose campus access has been affected by the flu shot requirement, but that getting the flu vaccine has been laborious for some.

“I know a lot of friends who had a difficult time getting the flu shot or who had to wait in line a lot,” said Paryani.

These long lines are likely due to students trying to get vaccinated before the Nov. 1 deadline. According to senior Suzie Gevorgyan, securing an appointment for an on-campus flu vaccination was difficult, leading her to opt for an off-campus option.

“I didn’t do it through USC because when I was trying to find an appointment through USC, it said everything was booked until after November 1st and the deadline was November 1st. I was like, ‘There’s no way,’” said Gevorgyan. “So I just went to CVS and it took maybe 10 minutes to make the appointment.”

Student Health is hoping for a vaccination rate of 95% or higher, similar to that of COVID-19 vaccines. USC ordered 10,000 flu vaccines last week and according to Van Orman, there is no shortage of vaccines to go around.

UCLA is also requiring students to be vaccinated against the flu with a Nov. 1 deadline. Loyola Marymount University highly recommends, but does not require, a flu vaccination. Cal State LA encourages students and community members to get the flu vaccine, but also does not require it for campus access.

USC students can get their flu vaccination by scheduling an appointment on MySHR and new appointments are made available every week, Van Orman said. The vaccines are also available at any USC COVID-19 testing site or at USC Pharmacy locations, including the Lyon Recreation Center and in the Student Union Building on the University Park Campus. Students can also get one on the Pardee lawn.

Students with USC insurance can receive the flu vaccination for free, and ones with an outside provider can request reimbursement for the $20 charge. Students without insurance must pay $35 out-of-pocket.